• The roots of Aussie Shiraz

    Shiraz (or Syrah depending on style) was one of the earliest varieties to be welcomed to Australia in 1832 thanks to the arrival of James Busby and his now infamous grape variety collection – and fortunately Shiraz was immediately established in some of Australia’s finest vineyards. From that moment on this deep red, juicy variety with wonderful tannins has been closely connected to our viticultural landscape…

     

    Colonial Australia and our love of Shiraz

    The timing of Shiraz’s arrival meant it became embedded in Australia’s wine culture when our modern cultural identity was still in its infancy. It was the days of bush poetry and ballads, convicts, rangers, and early colonial settlers. For example, Australians hadn’t even tasted a Lamington yet! So Shiraz’s ability to thrive and ‘get on with the job’ as many people of the time had to, meant it earned its place as our preferred red wine variety – in fact, all these years later Shiraz is still regarded as, “the classic Australian red” by many wine enthusiasts.

    So while winemakers crafted Australia’s earliest Shiraz wines to express our unique terroir, colourful and evocative bush poetry and ballads captured the essence of hard-working new-Australians, and our untamed landscape. Essentially, side by side, Shiraz and early Australian literature was bringing to life our colourful character. And of course, Gundagai was no exception.

    A vibrant crossroads, home to travellers, farmers and entrepreneurs, and boasting expansive pastoral lands along the foothills of our beloved Snowy Mountains, Gundagai was most notably put on Australia’s folklore map by Banjo Patterson’s The Road to Gundagai. This acclaimed piece of writing was later transformed into song by another Australian icon of the bush, Slim Dusty. The town was also featured in the famed Flash Jack From Gundagai (the namesake of one of our Regional Characters Series wines!)

    Talking of wine, it was around this time that the McWilliam family established Gundagai’s first vineyard. While that particular winery is no longer in Gundagai, many new award-winning wineries, including Tumblong Hills’ very own vineyards, now call Gundagai home.

    Not just because Shiraz is Australia’s most widely planted and appreciated red wine variety, we chose to include it in our Regional Characters Series as our Flash Jack Shiraz because its strong, well-defined characteristics are still perfectly suited to Australia’s and International tastes, just as it was in those early days.

    So whether you’re a local farmer, a traveller or an entrepreneur, if you’re lucky enough to find yourself at Gundagai’s crossroads one day then we recommend you get your hands on a cracking piece of early Australian literature and pour yourself a beautiful, regional Shiraz – to really drink in Australia’s unique heritage and acclaimed viticulture. You’ll be treated to the rich and earthy flavours typical of Shiraz, most notably ripe cherry, plum and berry fruit characteristics, along with smoky tobacco notes, oak influence, and hints of spice and white pepper.

    Of course, if you can’t get to Gundagai we happen to have some of Gundagai’s very own Shiraz bottled and ready for you to enjoy. Cheers.

  • On the world’s lips – Cabernet Sauvignon

    Before Cabernet Sauvignon underwent DNA profiling revealing it to be the lovechild of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, up until the 17th Century the variety was somewhat of a chameleon. You may have enjoyed a glass of Claret or Bordeaux, talked about Petite Vidure or Bidure, or even looked across a field of Uva Francese while holidaying in Italy. Yes, they are all referring to the one and only, Cab Sauv.

    Currently the world’s most widely planted premium variety, Cabernet Sauvignon has recently earned itself yet another name – the Colonizer – for often being favoured over native regional varieties. But this thick skinned, low yielding, and late ripening beauty isn’t deterred by name calling, regardless of what’s put on the label (or said behind its back).

    The thing is, apart from being wonderfully drinkable, Cabernet Sauvignon is happy to set its roots down just about anywhere. From its birthplace in Bordeaux, France, Cabernet Sauvignon has established itself in almost every single winemaking nation, including every major wine region in Australia. You can literally travel the world and enjoy locally grown and crafted Cabernet Sauvignon in Italy, Canada, America, Chile, Brazil, Bulgaria, Romania, Lebanon, China, and the list goes on and on.

    In China, some wineries have even planted Cabernet Sauvignon, along with local varieties such as Cabernet Gernischt, in the Gobi Desert. Utilising the sandy soils, hot dry summers and water from the nearby Yellow River, winemakers have harnessed this unlikely desert location to meet market demands and witness Cabernet Sauvignon’s ability to thrive. But how do the vines withstand the -20˚C winter temperatures? By burying them by hand in the sand, of course. Yes, Cabernet Sauvignon vines are that hardy!

    While such initiatives show winemaker’s extreme dedication to the variety it also reinforces how sought after Cabernet Sauvignon is. To prove the point, Cabernet Sauvignon also holds the record for the most expensive wine ever sold. In 2017 the LA Times reported celebrity winemaker, Jesse Katz (who also holds the record for the youngest head winemaker in America) had one of his wines sold at a charity auction for $350,000 USD. That’s $467 per millilitre! Also in California, Cabernet Sauvignon cult wines fetch price tags that run into the thousands.

    But whether you’re paying top dollar or simply enjoying a rich and delicious favourite, one of the most endearing characters of Cabernet Sauvignon is its consistent profile, regardless of where it is from or who skilfully produced it. A classic Cabernet Sauvignon is full-bodied, relatively high in tannins, shows a good amount of acidity and features solid ageing potential depending on the winemaker’s intentions.

    Here in Gundagai our ironstone soil helps the fruit develop intense flavour and colour, while our cool alpine-influenced nights promote varietal complexity, and the warm days allow ripe fruit flavours such as blackcurrant, plum and dark cherry to develop, along with classic characters such as eucalyptus and spearmint.

    Oh and when you enjoy your next glass of Cabernet Sauvignon you’d better mark August 30 in your calendar – International Cabernet Day is on its way!

  • Fiano: four great reasons to pour yourself a glass

    It’s funny to talk about Fiano (fee-ah-no) as if it’s a new kid on the block, when it has been attracting the bees (traditionally known as Vitis Apiano ‘the vine beloved by bees’) for over 2000 years and pleasing Italian kings since the 13th Century. But in Australia, and even in modern Italian terms, Fiano is a fresh face on the white wine scene, luring dedicated Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris/Grigio and even Riesling drinkers to its unwavering fan-base. Here’s why…

    Fiano is basically Italian royalty

    It is widely thought that Charles d’Anjou, King of Naples was so taken by Fiano’s charms that he had the royal vineyards planted with 16,000 Fiano vines in the 13th Century. In fact, Southern Italy’s Campania region is still the stronghold of the variety today. This may make you wonder, if Fiano was so deeply loved why did it vanish from popularity until as recently as the 1990s? Tragically Fiano was hit hard by the phylloxera crisis of the late 19th Century, plus its low yield and small juice output wasn’t seen as viable when pitted against the big, juicy grape varieties popular in the 70s and 80s. Thankfully for lovers of this small, thick skinned grape, today it’s embraced for its complex, textural and expressive qualities, and celebrated for its low yield, concentrated characteristics.

    When things heat up, Fiano is still as fresh as ever

    If you are environmentally conscious or just a fan of clever viticulture, when you pour yourself a Fiano you’ll be pleased to know one of the reasons Australian winemakers increasingly look towards southern Italian grapes goes beyond their impeccable flavour profiles and aromatics. It also has a lot to do with climate, in particular warm climates. As the world heats up and Australian vintages bear the brunt of temperature spikes Fiano is proving to be a resilient variety. It ripens later and retains acidity despite the heat, essentially by-passing the effects our scorching summers can have on fruit, saving on water and wastage.

    It’s the tiny grape that tells a delicious story

    Read the label of almost any good Australian Fiano and you will find yourself being enticed by its pristine colour, mouth-watering acidity, light and fresh aromatics, and an abundance of fresh fruit flavours. While climate, region, terroir and winemaking styles all play a part in shaping each unique bottle of Fiano, typically you might expect to enjoy grapefruit, honeysuckle, apricot, nashy pear, almond, hazelnuts, tropicals and/or citrus, along with notes of spice and herbal minerality. Some of which you will enjoy in our 2019 Fiano, grown locally here in Gundagai.

    Italian fare is more than fair on Fiano

    You’ve probably read it many times before, but Italian varietals are extremely food friendly and the old adage certainly rings true for Fiano too. Fiano’s fresh acidity effortlessly cuts through Cuoppo – Southern Italy’s take on fish and chips. Or try with a Margherita Pizza for an alternative pairing to the usual red wine partnership. Creamy dishes are also a tasty match for Fiano, such as a Creamy Carbonara. Of course, Fiano doesn’t need food to be a pleasure, however, if you are a Table of Plenty type of wine lover we suggest you pour yourself a glass with your fave foods and settle in the for a delicious evening.

  • Straight up – Sangiovese is ‘super’

    There is one variety that lays claim to more Italian soil than any other, Jancis Robinson proclaims it is “THE dominant grape of central Italian red wines,” and these days it is the backbone, and often the only variety in Tuscany’s famous Chianti. Plus, if you’re saying it correctly the name just rolls over your tongue like an exquisite Brunello di Montalcino. It’s Sangiovese (san-gee-oh-vey-see), of course.

    Legend has it Monks named the variety ‘Sanguis Jovis,’ after the ancient Roman and Italian god, literally translating as ‘Blood of Jupiter’. With such a revered title it seems plausible those Monks knew Sangiovese was noble, even other-worldly as early as the 16th Century. But in 1738 it was relegated to being a ‘blending only’ fruit and was subsequently subjected to centuries of slack winemaking. It wasn’t until it featured in the popular ‘Super Tuscan’ blends of the 80s that Sangiovese started its comeback.

    In Australia, Sangiovese is increasingly sought-after, but to many it is still relatively unknown. If you ever dined at an Italian/Australian restaurant in the 70s and 80s, just the mention of Chianti is probably giving you flashbacks of raffia covered bottles (always re-used as ‘exotic’ candleholders), a cheap and cheerful Italian red poured from a carafe, bolognaise or pizza on your plate (over a red and white checked tablecloth, of course), with Dean Martin’s That’s Amore flowing from the speakers.

    Well, we’re here to reassure you, Chianti, and of course Sangiovese is so much more than the ‘house wine’ at your local Italian joint.

    Today, if you can get your hands on some Sangiovese from Italy’s Tuscany region, such as the above mentioned Brunello di Montalcino, a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, or a modern Chianti, then you are in for something of substance. In Australia, vastly different regions such as McLaren Vale, Victorian Highlands and NSW Gundagai are all presenting a unique take on the variety with impressive characteristics to boot. The deep purple fruit with thinnish skins produce wines with strong tannins, good natural acidity, and a tendency towards savoury, however many modern examples are fruit-driven. Typically Sangiovese presents tart cherry, fig, strawberry and red plum, with secondary notes of thyme and oregano, and hints of tomato, leather, toffee, prunes, and spice.

    It may seem clichéd (and reminiscent of the checked tablecloth experience we mentioned earlier), but Sangiovese, like many Italian varietals, is incredibly food friendly – and as Wine Australia says, it’s one of our “original ‘alternative’ varieties.” Which means us Aussies have had a fair amount of practice getting the best out of the variety with delicious food matches.

    For example, if you have an early-drinking Table of Plenty Sangiovese in front of you, serve up a generous ladle of fresh Pomarola sauce with basil over homemade pasta. The basil will bring out the herbal notes in the wine and tomato enhances the fleshy fruit characters. Or, if you are savouring an aged Sangiovese, then a Veal saltimbocca with sage and prosciutto is going to instantly transport your tastebuds to Roma or at the very least get you humming Dean Martin’s, Mambo Italiano.

  • Nebbiolo: the fuss and the fog

    If you haven’t heard of it already, the Piedmont region in northern Italy is known for producing some of Italy’s finest wines, including Barbera. But in the small towns of Barolo and Barbaresco something quite unique is produced – and today it’s fetching Burgundy and Bordeaux-like prices. So move over Tuscany and even France, because the picturesque Italian region is home to a spectacular variety – Nebbiolo (neb-e-oh-low). It’s the moody, dark skinned, early flowering, and late ripening beauty that has a reputation for being one of the most exacting varieties for winemakers to master (on par with Pinot Noir).

    Nebbiolo originates from the Italian word ‘nebbia’ which in English means ‘fog’ – and to clarify, this particular fog is not the self-inflicted sort resulting from red wine overindulgence, or the milky film that forms over the berries as they reach maturity. In true Italian form the real meaning is much more romantic. It is a veil of fog that not only creates diurnal conditions, but seems to bless each vintage as it descends. Or more simply it was described by The Australian as “the fog that swirls around the Piedmontese hills at harvest time.

    The famous fog has been heavily attributed to the regional success of Nebbiolo, but in truth it is just one element of the unique terroir required to make Barolo-esque quality wines. Winefolly break it down well when defining Barolo and Barbaresco, and essentially it comes down to differences in soil types and Barolo’s diurnal shift. Meaning Barolo wines have become known as the stronger of the two in aromatics, flavour and tannins, lending itself to very lengthy cellaring times of 10+ years.

    A quality Nebbiolo can express wonderful aromatics, such as dark cherry, red plums, rose petals, violets, wood smoke and forest floor, and the palate will often boast bold cherry and red fruit flavours, fresh acidity and strong, lengthy tannins. And it has earned such descriptions as “alluring, mysterious and thrilling with a lithe style and an essential elegance…” as in Adelaide’s InDaily.

    And just like many popular Italian varietals, the New World is having a crack at doing it justice, away from its 14th Century home. When Jancis Robinson eloquently described Piedmont as, “This comfortable north-western corner of Italy, where life can seem to evolve around a table laden with good things and where on a clear day the snow-covered Alps provide a constant backdrop…” it becomes very easy to see the similarities with not only the location, but also the ethos behind our own estate grown Table of Plenty Nebbiolo 2016.

    Plus, just as Piedmont has their Alps with cool temperatures, plenty of sunshine, and the nearby Tanaro River, Gundagai has the Snowy Mountains, cool temperatures, plenty of sunshine, and the nearby Murrumbidgee. You see what we’re getting at? And the best part is, even though our terroir may be on par with what the fruit needs to shine, our Australian examples don’t require the lengthy cellaring to become your new favourite with braised beef, Spanish tapas or even a Truffles and Porcini dish. Which means you get to fall in love with Nebbiolo before the Italians can say, “Ciao!”

  • You beaut Barbera is bellissimo!

    When a friend casually messages, “I picked up a nice young Barbera on the road to Gundagai the other day.” It might mean one of two things. That is because Barbera (pronounced Bar-BEH-rah) is a very different story than say, Sharon’s best friend Babs. Either way, it’s probably best to assume the former was the case and reply with a smiley face and red wine emoji, then pour yourself a glass…

    So who is this mysterious Barbera you were hypothetically messaged about?

    Barbera is an Italian red wine varietal from the Piedmont Region. It is known for its early maturing, dark-skin fruit, high acidity and low tannin levels. It generally results in a medium bodied wine with characteristic cherry and plum fruit flavours, and according to Wine Folly, “…Barbera wine tastes both rich and light-bodied,” – an appealing trait that has aided in its widespread planting, rise in popularity and its endless food matching possibilities.

    Very early on, in the 13th Century in fact, Monferrato locals claimed Barbera as one of their favourite varieties alongside the likes of Nebbiolo. They set about planting, harvesting, fermenting and perfecting it – and today it is still one of Italy’s most widely planted grape varieties. Dotted amongst castles and celebrated restaurants, the Barbera d’Asti and Nizza plantings have yielded some of the most celebrated examples of the variety, including Olim Bauda, Sant’Emiliano, Bava and Braida.

    Following the footsteps of many Italian migrants, Barbera can now also be found in a number of New World wine countries too, such as here in Australia, Argentina and California. As Vinodiversity acknowledges, its new locations have created a revival of interest, “New methods including yield restrictions and barrel maturation have created what amounts to a new style.” In fact, even the likes of wine guru Jancis Robinson acknowledges the rise in popularity Barbera is experiencing, “No grape has known such a dramatic upgrade in its fortunes and image in the last 20 years than Barbera…”

    The variety’s success in places like Gundagai is largely due to its unique climate being very similar to that of Barbera’s homeland. Piedmont, situated in northern Italy, actually means ‘foot of the mountain’ and is almost entirely surrounded by Alps, just as Gundagai is nestled at the foothills of New South Wales’ picturesque Snowy Mountains (otherwise known as the Australian Alps). But whether in Italy or Gundagai, the Barbera vines enjoy the warm valley micro-climate, which helps beautifully maintain acidity in the fruit.

    Its solid reputation as an adaptable and flexible variety is not just for its revered Old World and New World styles either, but also for its suitability to impress alongside a host of delicious cuisines. True to its origins, Barbera is the perfect centrepiece for Mediterranean feasts and accompaniment to classic Italian fare, such as pork and fennel sausages, antipasto pizza, and wild mushroom risotto – and as luck would have it our recent release, Barbera 2016, is just as the label suggests, perfect for a Table of Plenty. Saluti!